Chelsea’s new priority one is Ben Chilwell but he will be expensive. A long and ultimately fruitless pursuit of the player feels too much like bad business.
Recent transfer windows have shown the club exhibit some bad habits. Manager and/or club determines the player they want. They go all in on that player, almost exclusively in fact. The club that owns the player’s contract keeps the price high as Chelsea tries to negotiate things down. The Blues fail and time passes. Because the club had tunnel vision and only pursued one player at a time, by the time they switch targets they are short on time. They bring in a “good enough” player rather than one they can truly improve with.
Kalidou Koulibaly and Alex Sandro are the two most recent and prominent examples. The club went after both and only focused on both. Napoli and Juventus priced Chelsea out. By the time that happened, the Blues were out of time in the case of Koulibaly and they got Emerson in the case of Sandro.
Fast forward to now and the Ben Chilwell saga is already beginning to take on similar shades. In a summer where Chelsea has been active early and (seemingly) often, Chilwell already feels like a transfer saga of old. The Blues cannot fall into their old habits.
The rumors have been around all season but it only appears now that the Blues have focused in on the Englishman. Leicester want a whopping £80 millionish and Chelsea wants to pay around £50 millionish. £80 million was the pre Covid-19 price tag and while it is ridiculous, it is not outside the norm for Leicester given Chilwell’s age and status as a home grown player. £50 million may be more reasonable, but it hard to tell exactly what form the transfer market will take in a post Covid-19 world.
But regardless, there is a good £30 million window worth of negotiating there. For Leicester, that could be a whole new starter. Even for Chelsea it could. So it may be hard to close that gap even if Chilwell wants the move.
But that £30 million gap? It plus some change could buy Nicolas Tagliafico or Alex Telles. Neither player may be more interested in joining Chelsea than Chilwell, but if the Blues at least pursue them while negotiating for Chilwell, they may have a stronger place at the table.
But the Blues should absolutely not pursue Chilwell for months, only to find it a fruitless endeavor and have to switch quickly to Tagliafico or Telles. Leicester is already interested in Tagliafico themselves and Telles has plenty of suitors. The longer this drags out, the harder it will be for anyone to get what they want.
And the real kicker? The main thing Chilwell has over the other two is age. Statistically, Tagliafico is a better defender and attacker. Telles is a better attacker and a better passer. The Blues could have either at half the price but without the age.
That being said, Chilwell can improve and could remain at the club twice as long as Tagliafico or Telles. But as the window progresses, if negotiations are still back and forth, it is best to cut losses and switch targets. Chelsea cannot get caught into a tunnel vision and ultimately fruitless pursuit of a player like they used to.